Next-wave targets at AACR 2019 start filling the blanks in the tumor microenvironment

A look at new and emerging targets at AACR 2019 and their mechanisms

New and emerging targets at AACR 2019 show cancer researchers are gaining granularity on how to manipulate the tumor microenvironment, a top priority goal for the field.

The targets point to emerging strategies for modulating cancer immunity, metabolism and migration, and show companies bringing up-and-coming targets into their pipelines.

BioCentury’s analysis found 25 new and 45 emerging targets among abstracts released ahead of this year’s meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR).

The former are defined as translational targets not previously included in BioCentury’s BCIQ database of drug development activity; the latter are targets whose abstract counts increased at least four-fold from last year’s meeting.

One of the standouts is MERTK, a receptor tyrosine kinase with dual roles regulating myeloid cell and cancer cell activity. MERTK features in 11 abstracts this year, up from two last year, presented by three companies and five academic groups.

The prominence of MERTK and CCL21 underscores the progress in new targets that shape the differentiation and recruitment of immune cells in the tumor microenvironment.

Chemokine CCL21 was a second standout, the topic of nine abstracts this year after receiving no mentions last year. It featured in abstracts from eight different groups.

The prominence of MERTK and CCL21 underscores the progress in new targets that shape the differentiation and recruitment of immune cells in the tumor microenvironment.

Two of the 25 new targets are transporter proteins, described in company presentations. Phenex Pharmaceuticals AG presents data on inhibitors of the lactate transporter SLC16A4 in lung cancer and colon cancer models, and Mitologics S.A.S. shows its inhibitor of SLC25A5, a mitochondrial ADP/ATP translocase, has

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